But if it’s online, it’s gotta be true!

Man, oh man. This was first brought to my attention by longtime reader and lurker Karl and I later saw the AP story (link via the L.A. Times, inexplicably) on Yahoo! News. Apparently, an LAT reporter mistakenly quoted an April Fool’s joke as fact:

“In Wyoming, for example, Gov. Dave Freudenthal last April decreed that the Endangered Species Act is no longer in force and that the state ‘now considers the wolf as a federal dog,’ unworthy of protection,” the story read.

The Times printed a correction Wednesday, acknowledging that the news release was a hoax.

“The reporter saw it on the Internet and had talked with the governor in the past, so she was familiar enough with the way he talks and writes that she thought it sounded authentic, and she didn’t check, which she should have,” Times Deputy Metro Editor David Lauter told the Casper Star Tribune.

“We hate when this kind of thing happens, and we correct it as quickly as we can,” Lauter said.

Apparently, the reporter wasn’t familiar enough with the governor.

I remember the first time (that I can recall) that something like this happened and got a lot of publicity – 2002. I remember it because the spoof story involved was written by my buddy Moonie, whose wedding I recently decorated and attended, for L.A.-based Pinoylife.com, which later evolved into FlavorOnline.com (full disclosure: I wrote a couple of columns for this site). Basically, a student at Washington State University’s Daily Evergreen thought a sarcastic article about Filipino American History month was authentic – and lifted a whole graf and stuck it in her story. The graf in question? Oh, it’s priceless:

“On Oct. 18, 1857, the first Filipinos landed on the shores of Morro Bay, California, on a Spanish galleon called the Nuestra Se√±ora de Buena Esperanza, which translates to ‘The Big Ass Spanish Boat.’ “

Can you say ouch? The incident got national attention, covered by the Seattle Times (reg’ required):

Front-page blunder teaches hard lessons: Web-site joke gets WSU newspaper in trouble

By Robert Marshall Wells
Seattle Times staff reporter

An article that appeared last week on the front page of Washington State University’s student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen, was supposed to celebrate racial diversity and inform readers that October is Filipino-American History Month.

But instead, an error in the story has caused embarrassment for The Evergreen’s student journalists, turned the paper into a national example of plagiarism and poor judgment, and provided unexpected learning opportunities for many on campus.

Carrying the headline, “Filipino-American history recognized,” the Oct. 3 story began by describing ceremonies held in Pullman a day earlier to kick off Filipino-American History Month.

Several paragraphs into the piece, however, material copied verbatim from a Web site was included as historical background. A portion of the material was incorrectly translated from Spanish to English.

It read in part: “On Oct. 18, 1857, the first Filipinos landed on the shores of Morro Bay, California, on a Spanish galleon called the Nuestra Se√±ora de Buena Esperanza, which translates to ‘The Big Ass Spanish Boat.’ ”

The correct translation is “Our Lady of Good Hope.”

The Web site from which the material was drawn, http://www.pinoylife.com/, posted an explanation Monday, saying the passage was intended to be farcical.

“You know, some people really need to learn that just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean that it is true,” the site states. “And this harsh lesson is what The Daily Evergreen newspaper learned.”

Dang. I guess it was the LAT’s turn, this time.